Entrepreneur Gary Hoover, the father of the book-superstore concept, is hatching his fifth startup: Bigwig Games Inc. He says his new Austin-based company is going after “the large and vacant opportunity … in business-strategy games for tablets.” Think of these games as modern-day takes on the board game Monopoly.
When Hoover purchased an iPad last year, he knew that Apple’s tablet computer was the right device for playing games aimed at teaching people about the business world in an entertaining way. Eventually, the startup will develop games for tablet devices other than the iPad.
“People outside business, including young people, are often totally ignorant of the romance of commerce,” says Bigwig Games founder Gary Hoover.
“To me, few things are as fascinating as business, the competition and thrills it involves, and learning about the amazing array of industries that daily touch our lives,” Hoover says.
“My experience … is that very few businesspeople know much about how industries really work, outside their own industry. And people outside business, including young people, are often totally ignorant of the romance of commerce, as I like to call it. Economics is among the least understood and most important part of our lives.”
Hoover says he envisions 30 industry-specific Bigwig games being available by 2020. All of the business-simulation games will interact with one another.
“For example, the brewers in the beer game will place their beers in the restaurant game, whose restaurateurs will lease space from developers in the commercial real estate game, who may get rich and buy sports cars from manufacturers in the auto industry game who have gone public in the IPO game.”
To be sure, creating and running a business isn’t a game to Hoover. The longtime student of American business maintains a personal library with 55,000 books. Prior to Bigwig, Hoover launched four other startups, all based in Austin: RoadStoryUSA, a planned chain of for-profit museums; Hoover’s, a supplier of business data; TravelFest, a chain of travel superstores; and Bookstop, the first U.S. chain of book superstores.
Two of Hoover’s startups have enjoyed tremendous success. Bookstop was purchased by Barnes & Noble in 1989 for $41 million, while Hoover’s was acquired by Dun & Bradstreet (now known as D&B) in 2003 for $117 million. On the flip side, TravelFest folded, and Hoover said RoadStoryUSA is “in deep hibernation.”
Aside from establishing Bigwig Games last year, Hoover is entrepreneur-in-residence at the University of Texas School of Information and former entrepreneur-in-residence at UT’s McCombs School of Business. He will serve as Bigwig’s chief game designer, while Erwin Mazariegos of Austin leads iOS development.
So far, Bigwig has raised about $70,000 from private investors to get the company off the ground. By the time Bigwig’s first game rolls out, the startup will have collected somewhere between $100,000 and $300,000 in private funding, Hoover estimates.
“This is a very lean, relatively low-cost idea,” he says. “This project will take less capital than my prior startups, but we want to have good partners engaged and sharing in what we think could be a very interesting business opportunity.”